The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Enter the elected autocrat
A. J. Philip

The Future of Freedom
by Fareed Zakaria, Penguin Viking, New Delhi.
Pages 287 Rs. 395

OME see in Fareed Zakaria a future US Secretary of State. Son of Rafiq Zakaria and Fatima Zakaria, this thirty-something editor of Newsweek International has already earned a niche for himself in US intellectual circles. His series of articles before, during and after the Iraq war, conformed, by and large, to the thinking in the Bush administration but they were nuanced enough not to lose sight of the pitfalls of the war.

Cultural politics of nationalism
Rumina Sethi

India: A National Culture?
edited by Geeti Sen. Sage, New Delhi.
Pages 294. Rs 850.

HIS book is about cultural perspectives of nationalism. Nationalism may be largely political, but is based mainly on cultural symbols and traditions such as religious icons, ancient societies, linguistic and oral narratives, art, sculpture, painting, and so on. National pride is predicated upon all of these.

An eulogy to books that heal & sustain
M. L. Raina
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi. Random House, New York. Pages 368. $23.95

ART literary and part political commentary, I commend this book on three counts. It proves teeth-gnashing feminists wrong about the alleged baleful influence of male writing. It indicts Iranian clerics for suppression of women in the name of Islam. And, what is to me a very special pleasure, it celebrates the great works of literature and recognises their power to heal and sustain.


Humour plucked from everyday life
Rajnish Wattas
The Rupa Laughter Omnibus
edited by Ruskin Bond. Rupa. Pages 180. Rs 295.

NYONE who has known Ruskin Bond will recognise his real-life persona in the spirit of the book. It is the ideal companion to lift your spirits – almost like a Wodehousian ‘pick-me-up’ – on a gloomy day. Gentle and languid with a laid-back humour; it brings a chuckle or a smile; but is never slapstick.

The identity of North-East Sikhs
Surjit Hans
The Other Sikhs: A View from Eastern India
by Himadri Banerjee, Manohar, New Delhi. Pages 279. Rs 550.

NE out of four Sikhs live outside Punjab. Eleven thousand Sikhs in Assam constitute one per cent of the population. Out of them, four thousand are Assamese-Sikhs. Though they cannot speak or write Punjabi, they are more or less conscious of the five Ks.

A look at life in a slum
Arun Gaur

Chinnamani's World
by Mukunda Rao. Penguin Books. Pages 274. Rs 295.

HINNAMANI'S world is a world of Indira slum of Bangalore. However, it is not presented through the eye of Chinnamani, even though the title suggests that. The narrative voice shifts and identifies itself with different personae active in the slum: Chinnamani (11-year-old bright schoolboy), his mother Parvathi (daily wage-earner at construction sites), his father Thangamani (vegetable hawker), Velu (Chinnamani's friend, a Rajnikant fan), Asaithambi (the beggar-boy), Shiva (a scooter mechanic), Yellanuna (the canteen owner), Rukmini (the coquette), Isthri Selvan (Thiruvalluvar fan who irons for a living) the carpenter, Rowdy Muthu (the ruffian) and Laxman (lottery-ticket seller).

Rajasthan of folk arts
Padam Ahlawat

Rajasthan an Oral History: Conversations with Komal Kothari
by Rustom Bharucha. Penguin, New Delhi. Pages 358. Rs 325.

AJASTHAN is a land that is rich in history. It has been home to most of the Rajput and Jat kingdoms. In ancient times it had a warm climate and was free of forest cover, which were conducive to the growth of the Indus Civilisation.

Dedicated to Gods, exploited by men
Shalini Rawat

From Sacred Servant to Profane Prostitute: A History of the Changing Legal Status of the Devadasis in India, 1857-1947
by Kay K. Jordan. Manohar Publishers. Rs 500. Pages 184.

N a famous Kannada story by Ananda, The Girl I Killed, a devadasi from a respectable landlord family offers herself to the traveller–narrator who is collecting information on a nearby temple. It is a mark of respect for her father’s revered guest from the city. Shocked by the inhumanity of the practice, he convinces her that it is despicable only to find her drowned in a well the next morning.

Investing in human development
Neelu Kang
The SEWA Movement and Rural Development: The Banaskantha and Kutch Experience (2003)
by Daniel W. Crowell. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 236 Rs 280

HE Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is not merely a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has organised informal workers. It is a movement embracing activism, feminism, labour unionism and the innovations like SEWA Bank and the SEWA Academy.

Short takes
Freedom was the song of her life
Jaswant Singh
Sarojini Naidu: Nightingale of India
by Nimeran Sahukar. Rupa, New Delhi. Pages 63. Rs 195.

TO capture Sarojini Naidu in words is a task not easy to perform. This poet, politician, and humanist, who dedicated her life to the cause of the country’s freedom, opted for politics in place of poetry as the focus of her life. Yet she is called the Nightingale of India, because of the rhythmic and melodious nature of her poems.

  • The Bold Brave and Fearless
    by Tejwant Singh. Sanbun Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 281, Rs 250.